Ponta Dundo – a Gem of the Indian Ocean

Ponta Dundo – a Gem of the Indian Ocean

Ponta Dundo, and its equally radiant neighbour Pansy Island, are probably the most beautiful places I have ever been to. Baking-soda-white sands, set in radiating swirls of vivid blue of the Indian Ocean. Low-hanging blue skies and a sun that you can almost touch. It’s breathtaking! But there’s more to it that meets the eye. Aside from being an exquisite location for a romantic day at the beach, or even a wedding, it is steeped in history dating back to the Iron Age.

Pansy Island

Pansy Island


The Bazaruto Archipelago was once part of a peninsula connected to the mainland.  At low tide, the retreating waters expose millions of sand spits and tiny isles. One of the most beautiful of these ephemeral isles is Pansy Island – named after the sea-urchin skeletons with distinctive flower-shaped imprints found there. It lies hugging the southern shores of Bazaruto Island, opposite the rolling dunes of Punto Dundo. Rumour has it that during the Portuguese era, convicts would be shackled together and left here to drown with the rising tide. Nowadays, this serves a much more pleasant purpose – a unique destination for desert-island picnic, swimming and general frolicking in the sand for guests of nearby Anantara Bazaruto and AndBeyound Benguerra lodges.

From here, against screen-saver blue skies, there are views of the imposing procession of dunes that have for epochs protected Bazaruto Archipelago from being wiped out by the might of the Indian Ocean. These 30km of deserted white beach, is what is called Punto Dundo – one of the most important historical places in the area.


Historical Ponta Dundo


From a regional archaeological point of view, Ponta Dundo is regarded as a very special place. The earliest occupation of the Bazaruto Archipelago has its signs here, and traces back to 200-300 AD. It appears that these are the only archaeological sites of this period in all the islands along the coast of South East Africa.


The materials and artifacts that have been found here, suggest a connection of the Bazaruto islands with other coastal communities that were settled in Vilanculos Bay during this period. The discovery of Persian porcelain at Ponta Dundo, suggest a connection with the wider Indian Ocean commercial trading network. It is probable that the Bazaruto Archipelago was one of the oldest South East African Coast commercial centres!

Map of Bazaruto Archipellago

Ponta Dundo

Walking at the top of Ponta Dundo

The valley of Ponta Dundo

Admire the views from the top of Ponta Dundo in Virtual Reality!

After admiring the breath-taking views from the top of Ponta Dundo, we came back to the shores and made our way to Pansy Island. We were given the opportunity to have the whole island to ourselves. Not another footprint in the sight, we felt like castaways in paradise. I won’t lie when I say it was incredible, but I was happy that our skipper was just a wave away!

Pansy Island Beach

Not another soul in sight

Paradise found!

Travel to Pansy Island in Virtual Reality!

Visit Ponta Dundo when you book your stay in Bazaruto Archipelago!


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Benguerra and Beyond

Benguerra and Beyond

An exquisite piece of paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean, &Beyond Benguerra Island is a unique beach holiday destination perfect for a romantic getaway. It is situated on the second largest island in the stunning Bazaruto Archipelago, offering some of the world’s most pristine beaches and a sense of wilderness in a sophisticated setting. It is no wonder it is frequently featured on the pages of Condé Nast Traveller and Vanity Fair.


AndBeyond Beach in front of the lodge

AndBeyond Benguerra Lodge

Benguerra Lodge first opened as a fishing camp some 30 years ago and slowly evolved into something approaching sophistication, yielding to the the demand of fishermen’s wives and girlfriends who objected to roughing it up in such a idyllic setting. Recently, the lodge was sold to a South African consortium, which cleverly engaged AndBeyond to create the ultimate romantic getaway. The result is a classy but unpretentious beach retreat that stands apart in the company of other resorts overburdened with cliché tokens of luxury.

AndBeyond Benguerra is laid out in a simple safari-camp configuration with a thatched main lodge fronted by a cheerful beach bar carved out of a traditional fisherman’s dhow. The resort is constructed in such a way that its guests, 32 at full capacity, feel like they are the only ones on the whole island. Each suite is hidden in the canopy of indigenous casuarina pine forest, with a private pool, an outdoor shower, and loungers offering front row seats onto the sensational sunsets over the Indian Ocean. The interiors are colonial chique and the rooms is cool and shady thanks to the wooden shutters that keep out the bouncing light of the sand and sea. It’s couples paradise.

Inside Casa Familia villa

Outside Casa Familia villa

Room service

Front row seats onto the sunset

Lunch by the plunge pool

Benguerra Activities

The lodge prides itself in its impeccable service, and staff take the time to get to know every visitor without exception. In the evening we head down to the beach where a restaurant has sprung on the water front, lit by a countless lanterns and complete with a butler for every table. We enjoy cocktails by the dhow bar and meet Erik, the activities manager. He tells us about the recent dugong sightings and anecdotes of living on the island.

The Indian Ocean here is fabulously warm and rich in marine life, with plentiful manta rays and whale sharks, schools of dolphins and loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles. The Bazaruto National Park is also home to about 200 dugongs, Africa’s last sustainable population of the big grey mammals thought to have given rise to the myth of the mermaid. Here at AndBeyond Benguerra, you will have the chance to go diving and snorkeling with these majestic creatures.

Map of Bazaruto Archipellago

Dhow Bar

Playing mermaid


Among its activities, the lodge offers ocean safaris, diving and fishing excursion, as well as horse riding and traditional dhow cruises. It is even possible to arrange a romantic castaway picnic on Ponta Dundo, one of the most historically interesting islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago, with signs of occupation dating back to the beginning of the Iron Age (about 200-300 AD). But more on that later…

Ponta Dundo


After a day out exploring the natural beauty of Bazaruto Archipellago in the African sun, it’s a real pleasure to dissolve in the comfort of the suite. As I prepare a bath, any memories of the real world dissolve like salts. As night falls, we’re swallowed by the thick, velvety cloak of the starry sky and the incessant buzz of cicadas.


Book your stay on Benguerra Island.


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My Bazaruto Fairy tale

My Bazaruto Fairy tale

Bazaruto Archipelago


Bazaruto Archipelago is a gem of the Indian Ocean that consists of five islands; Bazaruto, Benguera, Magaruque, Santa Carolina and Bangue. They lie about 20 km offshore, between Vilankulo in the south and Inhassoro in the northwest. Since 1971, the archipelago has been protected as a national park and is managed by the National Directorate for Conservation Areas of the Ministry of Tourism, in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund and the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

Bazaruto, the largest of the island in the archipelago, is home to Anantara Bazaruto Resort, a world class luxury retreat, complete with a spa, tennis courts and a variety of activities, from horseback riding to snorkeling in the crystal clear ocean. The thing with big hotels, is that often they feel, well, big. Anantara hotel on Bazaruto Island is not one of those. From the moment you set foot onto the warm, soft sand, to the moment your boat takes you back to the real world, you feel that you are in a fairy tale that’s been written just for you.

Arriving in Anantara

Anantara’s 44 luxury villas, built from local materials, are nestled in the coastal jungle, in perfect harmony with their environment. As our boat gets closer to the shore, I start making out the thatched roofs peaking through the treetops. By the water, there is a congregation of brightly-dressed locals who appear to be waiting for our arrival. Upon reaching the shoreline, we are greeted with traditional song and dance, like long-awaited visitors. Unable to resist their energy, I join in the dance.  While I twirl to the beat of the drum and their song, someone from the welcome team is handing out cool hand-towels and glasses of fresh melon juice. I stop to enjoy the welcome drink. While I catch my breath, Thomas, our butler, loads our suitcases onto a golf cart.


Villa with Dreamy Views

We whizz our way past the reception, past the perfectly landscaped grounds, towards our Deluxe Sea view pool villa; 250 square metres of luxury hideaway with jaw-dropping views. As Thomas gives us the grand tour of the master suite, I stand absorbed by the shimmer of the ocean beyond the terrace. Turquoise and flat, it seems almost too beautiful to be real. “If you need anything at all, please dial 0.” Thomas advises. How could I ever need anything else, I wonder to myself.

Once I am able to bring my focus back into the room, I notice the exquisite setting. A four-poster king size bed in the centre of the bedroom and a curved standalone bathtub in the corner. The shower is linked to another outdoor shower. Everything faces the ocean. Outside, on the decked terrace, we have sun loungers and a plunge pool.

Snorkeling in Paradise


In the afternoon, we go snorkeling out on Neptune’s Nursery – a reef off the coast of Santa Carolina, affectionately dubbed Paradise Island.

When I jump in the water and open my eyes, I scream with delight, amazed by the diversity of marine life in front of me: clown trigger fish, box fish, angel fish, parrot fish, trumpet fish, gorgeous anemones and corals all in front of me, all at once.

The reef is a testimony to marine conservation and the hard work put in by the Bazaruto park administration and lodges to protect the local environment. It’s truly inspiring.

Silky Sunsets


We head back to the hotel for sunset and watch the sun go down from our terrace. There is a sailing boat slowly making its way back to the harbour as the sun dips into the ocean, leaving just a soft glow at the edge of the darkening sky.

Fine Dining


For dinner, we head to Club Naval where we were treated to another delectable dinning experience in a truly romantic setting. Soft candlelight bounces off the silver and dances in my glass of chilled South African rosé as I drink in the atmosphere. The starry sky, the whisper of the ocean, the soft tap of shoes on the polished wooden floors, the smell of grilled seafood drifting from the kitchen.

We start with ceviche of crab followed by a selection of grilled skewers – tiger prawns, chicken and prime steak. The very best produce, prepared to perfection. Chef George, a tall South African man with a warm smile and a solid handshake, comes over and chats to the guests, taking well-deserved compliments on the dinner.

After dinner, we sit on our terrace for a while, admiring the milky way and spotting constellations. The stars are so clear and close, you think they might start falling out of the sky right into your hands.

Day of Activities


The next the morning, we have a busy schedule – horseback riding followed by dune boarding.

We explore the nearby village and beachfront on horseback. Beautiful and well trained, the horses are an absolute pleasure to ride. We even get to dip our feet in the water!

After a short break, we drive out onto the dunes to try out dune boarding. I embrace my inner child and slide down into the valley, no hands, yelling to my hearts content. While the boarding is fun, the dunes are the real show-stoppers.

The smooth curves of white sand sit in stark contrast with the bright blue sky. In the distance you can see the whiskers of sand in the turquoises waters surrounding Punto Dundo. It is a wilderness that makes you want to run, dance and jump like no one’s looking.

We head back to the hotel before lunch, to freshen up after a busy morning and pack before we head to our next destination. As we gather our things, I feel a sadness coming over me. Like Cinderella before the stroke of midnight, I savour the last few hours in the magical world of Anantara.

When we board our boat back to reality, the same band that welcomed us breaks out into a melancholic song in Xitsonga, the local dialect, which translates to “When will they be back?” Brimming with emotions, I wonder the same, as our boat gains speed and the waving figures get smaller and smaller.

Soon, I hope.


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Vilankulos – More than a Gateway to Paradise

Vilankulos – More than a Gateway to Paradise

Vilankulos – what’s in a name?


Vilankulos is a costal town in the northern Mozambique province of Inhambane, sandwiched between Inhassoro, Massinga and the Indian Ocean. It was named after a local tribal chief Gamala Vilankulo Mukoke, but became known as Vilanculos during the colonial times. With Mozambican independence, the town was renamed back to Vilankulo. Today, somewhat confusingly, the district is called Vilanculos and the town is Vilankulo.

The landscape here is different to Inhambane – the rolling hills adorned with elegant coconut trees have given way to a flat, golden savanah sprinkled with stumpy baobabs and leafy monzo trees, used to make charcoal sold in sacks on the sides of the road.

We arrive in Vilankulo at sunset and to my surprise I find the streets full of bustle – people selling handicrafts and clothes out of their roadside stalls. Colourful rickshaws darting around the human traffic. Its liveliness reminds me of Ubud in Bali.

The town itself is only about 5 km long but has the highest concentration of tourism facilities on the Inhambane coastline. It has been a favourite with developers for decades, its iconic hotel Dona Ana having first opened its doors to visitors in 1967. The airport is based on the outside of the town with daily flights, providing an easy connection to Maputo and Johannesburg.

Although, we are only here for a stop-over on our way to Bazaruto, Vilankulos is a fantastic destination in itself. It offers a wide range of accommodation, white sandy beaches and the sun seeker’s favourites, including diving, snorkelling, dhow trips and kite-surfing. In fact, Vilankulos hosts an annual kite-surfing competition every September that attracts people from all over the continent and the world.

Vilanculos Beach Lodge


We spend the night at Vilanculos Beach Lodge – an oasis of lush greenery, thatched roofs and whitewashed houses that cascade down to the ocean. The hotel has only recently opened after a thorough renovation. It is now run by Angela, an energetic blonde with a South African accent and Portuguese heritage, and Damien, her French husband with kind eyes and excellent culinary skills.

We dine in the garden, just after the sun has set. The decor is a blend of European chique and African motifs, capulana place mats on white tablecloths, silver and crystal brought down to earth by wooden furniture.

We order risoles– a Portuguese take on croquetas – that come in a 3 varieties – shrimp, fish and chicken. As a main, we go for a whole red snapper, grilled and garnished with fragrant, roasted vegetables and a selection of sauces. As night sets in and the restaurant empties, I recognise the sounds of French chansons drifting through the cooling air. We eat slowly, enjoying the atmosphere and sipping on a chilled South African white. For desert, I can’t resist the lemon tarte – a cloud of merengue on a crumbling base with just enough sour notes to bring it into perfect balance. Angela asks if it’s our first time in Vilankulos, and suggest we watch the sun rise in the morning.

The Sun Rises


After a good night’s rest, we stumble out of bed into the garden at the crack of dawn. Angela isn’t wrong – the sun rises with such drama and intensity over the smooth water that you cannot help think of the Greek legends of Apollo hauling the fireball across the sky. The heavens turn lilac, peach and orange, and then suddenly, there is a flash of fuchsia, as the sun breaches the horizon.

Vilankulos to Bazaruto


After admiring the sunrise over the archipelago, we have breakfast among perfectly manicured lawns and fluttering palm trees admiring the sight of Magaruque and Benguerra in the distance.  It is a shame we cannot stay longer to enjoy the hospitality, delicious food and the glistening infinity pool, but our boat is waiting to take us to the Bazaruto islands. Just a short 30 minute ride away.


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Swimming with Dolphins in Mozambique

Swimming with Dolphins in Mozambique

Dolphins in Tofo, Mozambique

Since I was a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of swimming with dolphins in the wild. I saw them many times on TV, in Dolphinariums and I even got to swim with them at the Atlantis Hotel in Bahamas – an experience I will never forget. However, nothing beats seeing them in the wild. In the past week, I had the chance to meet them twice in the open ocean off the coast of Mozambique!

Everyone loves dolphins – they have such a great energy and the power to make you smile. Their chatter and laughter are irresistible! Often you can hear them on a dive. They communicate and hunt by emitting sounds and waiting for the resulting echo to locate their quarry. Although I heard them a few times, I never saw them on scuba.

The most common dolphin that we see here in Mozambique is the Bottlenose Dolphin. They are around 2m plus in length and have a grey back & lighter underside. This is called counter-shading and is actually a form camouflage since it makes the animal hard to distinguish from both above and below.

Tofo is also lucky enough to be called home to a much rarer and more shy species called the Humpback Dolphin. They have a very distinctive hump and the base of their dorsal fin and can often be seen joining in with larger Bottlenose pods.

Dolphins, Tofo, Mozambique

The little orange dots in the water are plankton.

Dolphins off the Coast of Mozambique

The surest way to see dolphins in Tofo, Mozambique is to go on an ocean safari. You often see them accompanying the boats and if you’re quick enough, you get to swim with them! This was the first time I saw them in the ocean. It was an amazing experience and I even caught it on a 360 video (see below).

The second time was when we snorkeled off the coast of Tofinho in the early morning. As we were at the edge of the bay, I saw a few fins popping out of the water. Before I knew it, we were swimming with a pod of about ten dolphins. A few of them were super curious and stayed with us for a while, swimming around us, just a few meters away. It was really magical!

Dolphins, Tofo, Mozambique
Dolphins, Tofo, Mozambique

A family with a baby dolphin!

Dolphins, Tofo, Mozambique
Swimming with Dolphins, Tofo, Mozambique

So happy! We just swam with dolphins!

Experience Swimming with Dolphins in VR

To watch, play this 360 video in your VR headset or Google cupboard. To enjoy the video on the screen, click and drag the mouse across.

Liked the video? Share it with your friends!

To see more 360 videos, check out my VR Travel page.

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Lake Poelela Resort, Mozambique

Lake Poelela Resort, Mozambique

Lush Lake Poelela

One thing no one told me before I came to Mozambique was how lush it is going to be. I felt my preconceived notions melt away, as we drove through the dense foliage towards Lake Poelela Resort, in Inharrime province. Cows with beautiful hides stand on the open spaces, calmly chewing on the grass. Coconut trees rise above the dense vegetation, with bunches of green fruit hanging just below the bellowing leaves, promising abundance and refreshment.

Lake Poelela Resort

The resort sits on the eastern shore of Lake Poelela and is separated from the Indian Ocean, and the famous diving resort Zavora, by a 2.5 km stretch of sand dunes and indigenous vegetation. While being close enough to the diving, it offers a completely different experience and seems to be one of Mozambique’s best-kept secrets. I got lucky to be friends with one of those in-the-know.

It is a family run business, and the owners seem to have acquired a loyal customer base made of locals and visitors from neighbouring countries. Their TripAdvisor page is full of reviews from returning guests.

It is impossible to prepare for the surprise of arriving at the lodge. Through dense greenery on a dirt road, a quick walk up a small wooden path and onto an expanse of a private, sandy beach and the crystal-clear lake that stretches to the horizon.

When we arrive, we receive a warm welcome of hugs and solid handshakes from the owners – Arthur and his son Riaan. Arthur, who is originally from South Africa, has been an entrepreneur his whole life. Real estate has always been his passion. Lake Poelela Resort is one of his many ventures, as well as a home to his family in Mozambique for the past ten years. “When we arrived here, there was no electricity. We eventually convinced the local authorities to extend the power line up to the lake.” Now the lodge offers the tranquillity of a remote village in the comforts of civilization, including a fully equipped kitchen, and a private barbecue area.

Riaan shows us around the main house and the cottages, which serve as private, satellite rooms. One of the lodges each sleep eight people in four double rooms with en-suite bathrooms, and the second lodge sleeps six people in three double en-suite rooms. “Everything here was made my hand.” The roof made of reeds. The furniture of solid wood. The shell-encrusted shower. They all attest to the skills of the craftsmanship and the love that Jenny, Arthur’s wife put into designing the lodge.

We head to the terrace to watch the post-card sunset. The water reflects a sky of dreamy peach and gold. The rustling of the palm trees is the only sound that interrupts the gentle swishing of the waves. Riaan points out their tilapia farm some 50 metres away from the shoreline “It’s another one of Arthur’s businesses. You can watch our guys going out in the canoes three times a day to feed. Feel free to join them and have a look.”

We spend the next few days enjoying the tranquillity of the lodge – cooking, swimming, canoeing, reading, brainstorming and sharing stories. The beauty of spending time with travellers is that you never run out of things to talk about.

Beach Bummin’ in Zavora

On our last day, we ventured out to Zavora. As we are in a low-season, it felt like we came to a wild beach; miles and miles of shoreline stretching in both directions, with only us and a few local fishermen to plant our footsteps in the sand.

Equally wild, but slightly more perilous, was the ocean – roaring and foaming as it crashed over the rocks in the seabed.

There was a natural Jacuzzi in the rock formations. Sheltered just enough for you to plunge into, and still allowing the waves to leap in and create a whirlpool.

Another, much larger pool, had a tremendous current running through it. We tried to swim against it, for fun and exercise, but gave up when we began to drift too quickly in the wrong direction. In the end, we jumped in the ocean and enjoyed frolicking of the waves. I don’t know if it was the wilderness of the beach, or the complete relaxation after spending a few days at Lake Poelela, but I got the sudden urge to skinny-dip. There was something so liberating about this getaway. I understand why many guests return here time and again. But don’t take my word for it – try for yourself.

To stay at Lake Poelela Resort, call Riaan on + 258 87 289 2853 or email poelela@gmail.com for reservations.

Lake Poelela sleeps up to eight, from €25 per person per night.

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